High pressure and a fast tempo by the Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team pushed them to an 83-51 win over the visiting Eagles of the Anthem Preparatory Academy on Monday, Dec. 12.
Leading 14-13 after the first quarter, the Scorpions outscored the Eagles 22-11 in the second and 24-11 in the third to run away with the victory.
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“[It was] getting used to the competition,” Scorpion senior forward Dawson Stephenson said. “Starting off you’re just not comfortable playing against them, and then you just get more comfortable throughout the game.”
Stephenson finished off an alley-oop on the fast break to even the score at two early on, but Red Rock found itself down 9-4 a little more than halfway through the quarter.
Red Rock climbed its way back into the lead by way of a bucket by junior forward Winston Cox, assisted by junior guard Hayden Bruce.
At the outset of the second quarter it was the Scorpions who would turn the ball over on two consecutive occasions, but Anthem Prep could not capitalize. It would be a recurring theme during the entire game.
Soon after, the Red Rock full court defense forced the Eagles into committing turnovers, and sophomore guard Chase Sacalski turned back-to-back turnovers into four points. The Scorpions continued to impose their defense, eventually scoring 13 straight points to take a 31-17 lead with just two minutes left in the half.
“Our shot discipline was better,” Red Rock head coach Kirk Westervelt said. “Our defensive rotation was better on our zone.”
Scorpion senior guard Randy Rodriguez scored five of his nine points to close out the half, giving the hosts a 36-24 lead.
Another key to the Red Rock victory was slowing down the Eagles’ junior center Trey Wood, who according to Westervelt, is the 13th-ranked player in all of Arizona.
“I knew if we could trap their guards and keep him from getting the ball we could have a chance,” Westervelt said.
Despite the added attention, the visibly hobbled Wood led all scorers with 21 points.
Stephenson had a putback bucket, then grabbed a steal off the ensuing inbounds pass and earned a trip to the foul line to light the fuse to a 14-0 run the third quarter, definitively putting the game out of reach at 48-28.
By the quarter’s end, Red Rock opened a 60-35 lead as Cox finished off a putback of his own with two seconds left.
The Scorpions ran the floor throughout the entire game.
“I like the fast pace because we have athletes that can run the floor,” Westervelt said. “But [there are] too many turnovers still. They’re like a wild stallion that needs to be tamed but we haven’t tamed them yet.”
As the season goes on, Red Rock looks to improve their offensive efficiency.
“Definitely to limit our turnovers,” junior forward Wyatt Gregson said. “And just to keep pace of the game, but to make sure not to force any shots or go too quick on offense.”
The fourth quarter saw the bench players for both teams enter the fray, but the Scorpions’ style of play did not change.
“It’s a work in progress. At the end of the season we are going to be a force if we can play 32 minutes, which we haven’t yet,” Westervelt said.
Sacalski led Red Rock with 17 points, who improved to 3-3 on the season.
The Scorpions return to their home court at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14, against the Payson High School Longhorns before hitting the road at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, to face off with the Joy Christian High School Eagles.